Monday, November 13, 2006

Patience after one game

The game tape has been evaluated. It will probably be looked at a few more times before UConn starts a three-games-in-three-days stretch with the Hispanic Fund Classic at the Hartford Civic Center this weekend.

And each time that tape from Friday night's Quinnipiac game is viewed, something new is found.

And each time, the same mistakes will resurface.

Aside from an absence of a go-to player in the waning minutes, there were other offensive difficulties. First, a few apparent ones.

- Hasheem Thabeet finished 1-for-6 from the floor and 3-for-7 from the line: 5 points.

- A.J. Price finished 2-for-11 from the floor and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.

- The UConn guards were a combined 7-for-27 from the floor and 3-for-14 from 3-point range.

Now, a few quick explanations. Thabeet will not become a main offensive threat this week. By Thanksgiving, this probably won’t change. By Christmas, it may. By the main chunk of the Big East schedule, the UConn coaching staff hopes he evolves into a primary option.

After two exhibitions and one regular-season game, a number of readers have grown impatient with the Thabeet project and voiced them in a number of e-mails. But remember, the 7-foot-3 freshman center has played only four years.

Patience is needed. When you have six other legitimate offensive options, Thabeet should not be scrutinized for a lack of offensive production (By the way, he did have seven blocks and 11 rebounds). Assistant coach George Blaney, who has five decades of experience, is an ample teacher in this situation. He is also one of the more patient coaches on this staff.

Moving on to Price.

No one was more disappointed and frustrated with his play after Friday night’s victory than Price. Two years away from competitive basketball will do this to a 20-year-old college player.

Along with Gavin Edwards, Price is one of the more cerebral players on this roster. He makes good choices on the break, he takes good shots, but neither attribute was apparent against Quinnipiac.

He said he was pushing, that he forced shots and passes, and understands there is a ton of pressure on him this year to produce. Not only because he is the perceived leader of this team from the backcourt, but because of what he has been through the last two seasons. Of course, one action was self-inflicted; the other was out of his hands.

Finally, the guard play. Jim Calhoun evaluated his young roster in the preseason and liked the fact that his team was going to be able to run this winter. But it’s not so much that Calhoun is pulling the reins on his guards.

The guards are pulling the reins on themselves.

In their discussions with the state media Thursday, both Doug Wiggins and Jerome Dyson spoke about the small fear factor that exists when a mistake is made on the court. They understand one mistake will land them on the bench. The chances they took in high school and prep school have been cut back on, but both are not afraid to make a mistake. Calhoun said he is not happy with conservative play, but after the Quinnipiac game, when the backcourt accounted for six assists and seven turnovers, it was apparent that all the guards over-thought their roles.

This will change. They played just one game.

Some quick statistical analysis of the fast break.

Points off the break:
Quinnipiac 10, UConn 4.
UConn foul shooting:

First, if UConn converted at least eight more foul shots to reach the national average, this game would have been over three minutes earlier and Craig Austrie probably would not have found himself in this situation. But he did and knocked down that crucial 3-pointer, so now his confidence grows. Maybe.

Still, before the final five-minute stretch, UConn went to the foul line 24 times, and two-thirds of those opportunities were after fouls on the fast break.

Of the 29 team fouls Quinnipiac picked up, 17 were from guards (22 if you want to count Chris Wehye, traditionally a wing player who found himself rotating back on defense to stop the break).

They stopped the break by giving up fouls. They put UConn on the foul line. From a strategy standpoint, not a bad move by coach Joe DeSantis.

But across the floor, this opened up a number of opportunities to pull away.

UConn never did.

Tactically, the Huskies guards did nothing wrong except pass up a few 10-footers on 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 breaks. Instead, they made the extra pass and put one of their teammates on the line but they just did not produce there.

Final analysis: Better choices need to be made. Better choices will be made. Better foul shooting is needed. If not, the winter may be a long one.

But also remember, as much as Thabeet is a project, so is the development of two freshmen guards, one first-year sophomore (Price), and another guard, Austrie, whose confidence and experience is needed.

This weekend, all four have three games to prove they understand.

After that, some changes should and will probably be made.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home